Thursday, April 19, 2007

Albums: Simian Mobile Disco & New Young Pony Club


Two debut albums are sitting neatly back-to-back on the stereo this week from what’s been nominally lumped together as New Rave: Simian Mobile Disco’s “Attack Decay Sustain Release” and “Fantastic Playroom” by New Young Pony Club. Essentially both London bands, there are other good reasons for the pairing, particularly the fact that both have been around a while in other guises and chosen to reinvent themselves on the crest of the dance resurgence infiltrating UK indie.

James Ford and Jas Shaw of Simian Mobile Disco you’ll remember as half of Simian, the act that Ford helpfully summarised in our recent interview as a “psychedelic pop” band. Simian disbanded amidst musical disagreements and he and Shaw kept their occasional DJ moniker for their own acidic electro excursions. NYPC have a less documented history but you get the impression from talking to unusually switched-on front woman Tahita Bulmer that both she and Andy Spence have been around the industry block a few times.

So, it’s safe to say the key players here have more than a few years on the average punter at Fabric’s New Rave shindig, Adventures In The Beetroot Field. Unlike the sugar rush thrill of the Klaxons, both are possessed of a knowingness that’s something of a mixed blessing.

Beyond SMD’s previous twelve-inch releases - “Hustler” and “Tits & Acid” which are compiled here - “It’s The Beat” is the highlight from “Attack Decay Sustain Release” precisely because it’s happy to wear it’s love of Technotronic’s ’88 hit “Pump Up The Jam” on its sleeve. And NYPC would, ahem, be something of a one-trick pony if the only song they could write was a version of their brilliant debut single, “Get Lucky”. “Ice Cream” is arguably little more but at least the Bangles-esque “Hiding On The Staircase” chances it arm outside of the usual Tom Tom Club/ESG/Blondie flashpoints.

Both acts, though, struggle to elevate their sounds beyond their obvious mastery of style. Whether they like the comparison or not, SMD ultimately feel like a second coming of the Chemical Brothers for the Franz Ferdinand generation. The pounding 4/4 of each track thickens like porridge after a few listens, and sounds a little rudimentary at a time when European techno is finding increasingly deft ways to take percussive flight. Don’t get us wrong, we’re over the moon that SMD are injecting some fun back into the Brit indie scene and this is clearly an exciting release, in that context. But “Fantastic Playroom” is perhaps the more complete record, even if the sex-shtick and nonchalant vox start to grate after a while.

New Rave just like old Rave, you suspect, is destined to have a troubled relationship with the album format.

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